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ARABIAN NIGHTS; BURTON, Richard F. (trans.)

The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night.

Translated from the Arabic. Reprinted from the original edition and edited by Leonard C. Smithers. Illustrated by a series of seventy-one original illustrations reproduced from the original pictures in oils specially painted by Albert Letchford. In twelve volumes.

London : H. S. Nichols Ltd, 1897 Stock Code: 131161
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In superb condition, in the original box

The Library Edition, a most striking and handsome set of Burton's Arabian Nights, retaining the imposing box which has kept the set in lovely condition. "The Arabian Nights had been an important part of Burton's life for decades. In 1882 he began translating it in earnest. Although there were other translations of the Nights in English, Burton's was distinguished by his retention of the sexual content of the original Arabic versions, while his extensive footnotes drew on a lifetime of travel and research... it has become the pre-eminent English translation of the Middle Eastern classic. It is the keystone of Burton's literary reputation" (ODNB). Burton first published his translation in 16 volumes from 1885 to 1888.

This is the first edition to include the illustrations of Albert Letchford, Burton's close friend and "court painter", who worshipped Burton and frequently worked in his house (Yamanaka and Nishio, The Arabian Nights and Orientalism, p. 243). Following his studies in Florence and Paris, Letchford travelled to Egypt, where he was commissioned to paint the festivities for the Golden Jubilee in Cairo. While there he studied the life, culture and folklore of the Middle East, and upon his return to Italy Burton requested that he illustrate his Arabian Nights. Burton died in 1890, by which time Letchford had completed only one of the 71 illustrations. They were finally published in 1897, both in this edition and in a separate portfolio. Penzer records that Letchford never received the payment he was promised by the publisher (Penzer, p. 327).

This edition was issued in six different formats at varying prices. Penzer gives the total print run as 570 sets, of which 20 were exceptionally lavish and issued at the phenomenal price of 120 guineas, and 50 at 60 guineas. The remaining 500 were issued in a further four formats, of which this is Penzer's style C - priced at 15 guineas, and bound in "selected Syrian, large-grained, Angora goat skins, Sumac tanned, of the characteristic Damascus red... enclosed in a leather casket... to place on an ordinary book-shelf or stand on a table. The casket in olive green morocco, lined soft cloth, with spring lock and key of Oriental design" (from the original publisher's prospectus, cited in Penzer). The remaining three issues were available in full morocco with box, half-green morocco and green cloth. This set retains five of the fragile original plain dust jackets - not noted by Penzer and of utmost scarcity - a little dilapidated and preserved in protective sleeves.

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12 volumes, octavo (252 x 159 mm). Original burgundy half morocco, spines lettered and decorated in gilt, green cloth sides, marbled endpapers, linen inner hinges, top edges gilt, others trimmed. Housed in the original leather-covered casket, lid gilt-lettered in Arabic, lined with green cloth on the interior, with spring lock (key absent).


With 71 photogravure plates after oil paintings by Albert Letchford, each with captioned tissue-guard.


Box with some wear. The books in fine condition, without fading or wear, contents clean.


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